The News: The theatre has been purchased by UCLA and is to be used as an off-campus outpost of the university's Center for the Art of Performance. After a renovation, they anticipate a 2021 reopening. It will be known as the UCLA Nimoy Theatre, in honor of the late Leonard Nimoy. It's a project funded by Nimoy's widow, Susan Bay Nimoy, as well as a large donation from an anonymous source.
Projected uses include theatre events, music, lectures, film and experimental programming. Carolina Miranda's October 25, 2018 L.A. Times article "Westwood's Crest Theatre to be reborn.." had the news. Westwood Patch also had an October 25 story via California News Wire Services: "UCLA to Reopen Crest Theatre..." Another story about the acquisition appeared on the UCLA Newsroom site. Thanks to Joe Pinney and Michelle Gerdes for spotting several of the stories. The theatre had been on the market this time around for almost two years.
Opened: It opened as a neighborhood film house called the UCLAN Theatre on Christmas Day 1940 with the films "They Drive by Night" and "He Stayed For Breakfast." It was a 20 cent admission anytime. The theatre is on the east side of the street a bit more than a block south of Wilshire. Photo: Bill Counter - 2007
Architect: Arthur W. Hawes destined the original building. BAR Architects of San Francisco and L.A. did the 80s renovation for Disney/Pacific Theatres. Joe Musil was the lead designer for that project. BAR will also be doing the remodel for UCLA. See a pdf of a March 2019 press release announcing the selection of the firm. Tech consultants will be the Shalleck Collaborative from Berkeley.
The planned construction of the theatre had been announced in the April 12, 1940 issue of Southwest Builder and Contractor. A building permit had been issued April 9. Thanks to Cinema Treasures researcher Joe Vogel for finding the SB&C item.
It was a project of Frances Seymour Fonda, the second wife of Henry and mother of Peter and Jane Fonda. The initial operators were the small Dietrich and Feldstein circuit. World War II brought success for the house as a neighborhood theatre for the UCLA crowd partially because it was known for featuring newsreels on their programs. In the late 40s the house was running occasional foreign films. The Fonda family sold the building in 1955. At the time it was still being run by the its original operators.
An item in a February 1955 issue of Boxoffice noted: "The building housing the Uclan Theater in Westwood has been bought by Morris Lehrmand and Paul Raful from the estate of Frances Seymour Fonda, late wife of actor Henry Fonda. The Uclan, operated on lease from the Dietrich and Feldstein circuit, is unaffected by the sale." It was renamed the Crest Theatre c.1956 when Robert Lippert began operating the house. Lippert was out in 1959.
General Cinema had it after Loew's left in 1972. Fred Stein and his son Robert took it over from General Cinema with their new company Century Cinema Circuit. When they headed into bankruptcy in late 1976, Seattle-based Sterling Recreation Organization bought some of their assets, including the lease on the Crest. In 1983 SRO gave it a renovation, equipped the theatre for 70mm presentations, and renamed it the Metro. Pacific Theatres got it in 1985 when SRO left the southern California market. They soon went back to the Crest name calling it Pacific's Crest.
In 1987 and 1988 Pacific, in partnership with Disney, did a renovation designed by Joe Musil. The auditorium was reconfigured, the screen was brought forward, new proscenium and sidewall treatments were devised and a gussied-up marquee and facade were designed. All of the current decor is from that remodel. Musil later worked with Pacific and Disney on the re-do of the El Capitan.
Theatre explorer Steve Gerdes notes that the neon array up the tower was mentioned in a January 5, 1992 L.A. Times article. They credited the design to Raul Rodriguez, a veteran of 30 years work designing Rose Parade floats.
It's also been known as the Westwood Theatre and the Westwood Crest. It was renamed the Majestic Crest when it was operated as an independent by Robert Bucksbaum from 2003 to 2010. Bucksbaum put it on the market in 2008. In April 2008 it was declared a City of Los Angeles Cultural-Historic Landmark. Well, except for the stage, curtains and concession stand, that is.
Crack reporter Kevin Roderick had the story of the August 2010 sale to Bigfoot Entertainment on LA Observed: "Majestic Crest in Westwood sold." See Patrick Goldstein's post for the L.A. Times: "Robert Bucksbaum on Selling the Crest Theatre." Bigfoot is a Venice-based international firm involved in film and TV production and financing. Also see a 2010 Times article "Indie filmmaker Bigfoot..."
It was operated for Bigfoot by Carmike Cinemas, a large chain headquartered in Georgia. Bigfoot is a major shareholder in Carmike Theatres. It was their only California site. They were advertising it as the Bigfoot Crest. The theatre was upgraded in late 2010 with digital projection and 3-D capability.
Carmike closed the Crest in early October 2011 and Bigfoot put it up for sale in December 2011. According to a story on LA Curbed, the asking price was $4.5 million, or at the time it was available on a lease for $16,000 per month on a triple net basis.
In 2013 it was resurrected from the dead with a program of revivals and special events. Curbed L.A. had a May 20 story. Bigfoot still owned the property but a new team (including some of the old players) got a lease. They were doing revivals, HD screenings of opera and ballet, and special events. The theatre closed again the end of 2016 when the group's lease was up. They still have a website, CrestWestwood.com, and a Facebook page. A post on the Facebook page noted: "Alas, our lease ended and the owner is in charge. We had fun bringing the Crest back to life and programming with the community, and trust good things ahead for the Crest!"
The theatre was on the market all during 2017. In 2018 the "for sale" signs came off the marquee and the listing on Loopnet noted that it was "off market." The listing at one time had noted that the asking price was $5,875,000. There had been several interested parties (including with the Actors Hall of Fame) but deals had fallen through. David Thind of Coldwell Banker Commercial (310-442-1625) was the broker for the deal with UCLA that was announced October 25, 2018. See some details at the top of the page.
The Crest in the Movies:
The Crest is one of a half dozen theatres to get a marquee shot included in the title sequence of "Entourage" (Warner Bros., 2015). The film, directed by Doug Ellin, stars Kevin Dillon, Jeremy Piven, Adrian Grenier and Kevin Connolly plus many others doing cameos. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more screenshots.
The Crest is featured prominently for a premiere during the last fifteen minutes of "The Disaster Artist" (New Line Cinema / A24 Films, 2017). The film stars James Franco, Dave Franco, Ari Graynor, Alison Brie and Seth Rogen in the strange tale of aspiring film director Tommy Wiseau and the making of his film "The Room." James Franco directed. Thanks to Chris Willman for the tip about the Crest's appearance. The still of Franco and friends outside the theatre is from New Line. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for several interior shots from the film.
The Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation is actively involved in the study and preservation of the vintage theatres in the L.A. area. The group frequently supports events and offers tours of various historic theatres. www.lahtf.org | LAHTF on Facebook
Another look toward the screen. Thanks to Mark Peacock for the 2010 photo on the LAHTF Facebook page.
The Carthay Circle on the house right sidewall. Thanks to Martha Boswell for the photo on the LAHTF Facebook page.
The rear of the auditorium. Thanks to Franck Bohbot for the photo, part of his 2014 Cinema Series.
A June 2020 view taken during an unauthorized visit by a group of urban explorers.
In the booth:
The Christie projector was replaced with a 4K Sony unit in 2010. What we're not seeing in these two photos is a Century JJ 35/70mm projector over on the far left end of the booth.
A few more exterior views:
1940 - The theatre in November as the UCLAN, its original name. The image, a poor Xerox reproduction of what presumably is a nice photo from the AMPAS Margaret Herrick Digital Library collection, appears in the ninety six page pdf of the City of Los Angeles Cultural-Historic Landmark Application for the Crest. Thanks to Mike Hume for locating it.
1963 - A photo from Marc Wanamaker's Bison Archives collection of the Crest running "Get On With It," a 1961 British film also known as "Dentist On The Job." We're at Westwood and Wellworth looking north toward Wilshire Blvd. The photo appears in Mr. Wanamaker's 2010 Arcadia Publishing book "Westwood." There's a preview on Google Books which includes page 43 where this photo appears.
1963 - A detail from the photo above that appears on page 88 of the 2008 Arcadia book "Theatres in Los Angeles" by Suzanne Tarbell Cooper, Amy Ronnebeck Hall and Marc Wanamaker. Most of the photos in the book are from Mr. Wanamaker's Bison Archives. Don't have a copy yet? There's a Google Books preview to browse.
1973 - A fine view east toward Century City. The Crest, just right of center, is running "Save The Tiger" a February release with Jack Lemmon and Jack Gilford. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Ethereal Reality for spotting the photo on eBay and posting it as Noirish post #50878.
1973 - The Crest during the run of "O Lucky Man!" with Malcolm McDowell, a June release. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for the photo on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles. Thanks to Tom Southall for pointing out that on the far right side of the photo we're seeing a bit of the UA Westwood.
1980 - Thanks to the American Classic Images collection for this "Melvin and Howard" shot.
1983 - The theatre as the Metro in a July photo from the American Classic Images collection.
1987 - A Metro view that appeared on the Crest Facebook page. "Benji the Hunted" was a June release.
c.1988 - The Crest under Pacific Theatres management running a revival of "The Ten Commandments." It's a photo from the Bill Gabel collection that once appeared on Photos of Los Angeles. Note the fancy new marquee after the deco re-do.
1990 - The Crest running "Dick Tracy." Thanks to Bill Gabel for the photo from his collection.
1995 - Thanks to Michael Part for his photo. He wrote the script for Disney's "A Kid in King Arthur's Court." He added the shot as a comment to the posting of a 2017 photo on the non-public Facebook group Mid Century Modern Los Angeles.
2004 - A great view of the marquee at night. Thanks to Don Solosan of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation for his photo.
2017 - A June photo by Robert Rosenberg. It was a post on the non-public Facebook group Mid Century Modern Los Angeles. Thanks, Robert. He laments that at the time of his photo the theatre had been closed for six months.
2020 - UCLA as slumlord. Sad management of the property. It's a photo from Kevin Roderick on Instagram. Thanks to Donavan S. Moye for spotting the post.
Around the back:
More information: See the Crest page on Cinema Treasures. For additional exterior photos go to Cinema Tour. And take a peek at the nice photo spread devoted to the Crest Theatre on Cinema Sightlines.
See the 96 page pdf of the City of Los Angeles Cultural-Historic Landmark Application for the Crest. Thanks to Mike Hume for locating it.
James Gordon Everett has slideshows featuring a number of fine interior views on his website.
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